Sam Houston State Bearkats
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #114
Conference Rank: #1 Southland
Sam Houston State managed to put together a very good season despite not having a scholarship senior on the roster and losing two key contributors due to injuries. The Bearkats did a great job of keeping games close and pulling off quite a few big wins along the way. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi put an end to their NCAA Tournament hopes in the Southland tournament semifinals, but SHSU still went to the CIT, where they lost at home to Jackson State. That was not a good loss, but giving postseason experience to a young team is never a bad thing, even if that postseason experience is just one home game that did not turn out how they expected. With Paul Baxter and Ameer Jackson back from injury, Coach Jason Hooten has a bevy of talent to work with. Baxter was a three year starter for the Bearkats before suffering a foot injury prior to last season. He has averaged between 8.4 points and 9.2 points during his three years with the program. Ameer Jackson was looking good four games into his SHSU career, but the junior college transfer suffered an injury and missed the rest of the year. His versatility and ability to score and handle the ball will come in handy this time around.
2015-16 Record: 18-16, 12-6
2015-16 Postseason: CIT
Coach: Jason Hooten
Coach Record: 117-85 at Sam Houston State, 117-85 overall
Mitch McCormick is the only player who saw any time last season and is not on the roster this year. And McCormick only saw the floor for a total of 19 minutes, averaging 1.0 per game. He made three three-pointers in nine appearances. Other than that, Coach Hooten returns everybody and then some.
Sam Houston State wanted to pick up some size in this class and they got it with junior college transfer Christopher Galbreath and graduate transfer Phillip Jones. Galbreath is a 6-6, 205 pound forward who averaged 14.4 points and 9.6 rebounds last season at Southern Illinois Community College. His versatility is a nice fit with SHSU and he should at least be able to help on the glass right away. Jones comes from Texas-San Antonio where he had a great freshman campaign, averaging 7.2 points and 6.2 rebounds. With injuries, his numbers slipped as a sophomore and junior, but Jones is healthy now and a good athlete who can finish around the basket and even block a few shots here and there. The final newcomer is Denver transfer Cameron Delaney. He started six times for the Pioneers and played in a total of 18 games as a freshman before opting to transfer. With so many experienced transfers coming into the program, Coach Hooten is obviously building a team to win right now. And they should do just that.
Who to Watch:
Sam Houston State had a lot of players step up last season and turn into emerging stars of the team and none were more effective than the trio of Aurimas Majauskas, Dakarai Henderson and Jamal Williams. Two years ago these players showed a lot of promise from the bench, but last season they all turned into productive starters. Majauskas, a 6-8, 228 pound center, averaged 14.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game and turned into a consistent scorer in the paint, although he can also step out and knock down some jumpers too. Henderson connected on a team high 75 three-pointers and also averaged 14.2 points per game. He is the guy who will take the big shots for SHSU, but that may change now that Baxter is back in the mix. Williams is a big 6-4 guard who can do it all. Because of the injuries to Baxter and Jackson, Williams took over the point guard duties and dished out 4.4 assists per game and also averaged 9.6 points and 5.5 rebounds. Now he can move back to the wing, but those ball handling skills will come in handy. Suddenly Williams is one of the more versatile players in the conference.
With Jovante’ Spivey, Albert Almanza, Torry Butler, Jalin Barnes and Josh Delaney all back after averaging at least 15 minutes per game, there is plenty of depth and experience to work with. Almanza, a 6-6 wing, and Butler, a 6-5 forward, will likely be the most important players of that bunch. Those two will battle the newcomers for minutes at the power forward spot next to Majauskas. Butler is a solid rebounder and Almanza, who can also spend time on the wing, can stretch the defense with his shooting ability. With Galbreath and Jones in the mix as well, Coach Hooten has options in the frontcourt and that is something this team lacked last season. All the pieces are in place for a huge 2016-2017 campaign, especially with Stephen F. Austin taking a step back while they reload. This is the year for the Bearkats and if they fail to make it to the NCAA Tournament, it could be a while before they are ready to seriously compete for another berth since now this is a very senior heavy team.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Paul Baxter, Senior, Guard, DNP last season
Dakarai Henderson, Senior, Guard, 14.2 points per game
Jamal Williams, Junior, Guard, 9.6 points per game
Tony Butler, Senior, Forward, 6.2 points per game
Aurimas Majauskas, Senior, Center, 14.2 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 75.0 (132nd in nation, 6th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 71.4 (160, 3)
Field-Goal Percentage: 43.5 (198, 7)
Field-Goal Defense: 44.1 (208, 4)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.8 (101, 2)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 34.1 (195, 6)
Free-Throw Percentage: 69.8 (171, 6)
Rebound Margin: 3.0 (77, 1)
Assists Per Game: 16.9 (12, 2)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.8 (85, 1)